Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Feature: Anthony J. Quinn on ‘the Border’

Anthony J. Quinn publishes UNDERTOW (Head of Zeus) this month, a story over which Brexit and the potential consequences of a ‘hard’ border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland throws a long shadow. Anthony had a piece published in the Irish Times yesterday about growing up with the border as a reality. To wit:
“Growing up during the Troubles, I wanted to run, but instead I remained rooted to the spot, in my home parish of Killeeshil in Tyrone, about three miles from the Border with Monaghan. By staying here and raising a family, I’ve managed to lift my childhood landscape out of the darkness of the past. The trees and rivers I played in as a boy with my brothers and sisters live on in my children’s world, their familiar sounds and images translated into new stories and adventures.
  “However, my children think I grew up somewhere else, in a grim terrain of checkpoints and military hardware, armed men in camouflage greens, bulletproof vests and balaclavas. To their generation, the Border exists not as a line on a map, but as a contradictory series of romantic recollections about smuggling and horror stories from the Troubles. They’ve never noticed the Border, which runs so invisibly close to their lives, and they’ve never been able to locate these stories in their own landscape. For the past 15 years or so, the Border has existed more as folklore, and in the crevices of the past, until its story took an unexpected turn in June 2016 when the UK made a political decision about immigration and voted for Brexit.
  “Then it was as if the Border had suddenly fallen upon us from the sky again.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Feature: The Irish Spy Novel

I had a feature on the lesser-spotted Irish spy novel published in the Irish Times last week, which featured – among others – Joe Joyce, John Banville, Eoin McNamee, Stephen Burke, Michael Russell, Stuart Neville, Philip Davison, Joseph Hone and Andrew Hughes. To wit:
Brinsley McNamara always claimed that Garradrimna, the village which provides the setting for The Valley of the Squinting Windows, could have been any village in Ireland. Published in 1918, the novel can be read as an expression of a kind of colonial pathology, as the population of Garradrimna engage in constant mutual surveillance, monitoring one another’s weaknesses and ferreting out secrets in order to accrue what passes for power among the powerless.
  Naturally, any of Garradrimna’s upstanding citizens would take mortal offence at being called a spy. To the coloniser, every native is suspect until proven otherwise, and the only way to prove this logically fallacious gambit is to maintain a relentless scrutiny. Spied upon for generations, the colonised learn to abhor the spies, even as they absorb the tradecraft; it’s no coincidence that there are few Irish insults worse than that of tout, or informer.
  Perhaps this goes some way towards explaining why, despite the recent upsurge in Irish crime fiction, the Irish spy novel is notable by its absence. There is no Irish equivalent to Ian Fleming, for example, who served with British Naval Intelligence during WWII, or John le Carré, Somerset Maugham (Ashenden) and Graham Greene, all of whom worked with British Intelligence before going on to write spy fiction. The archetypal heroes of modern spy fiction were written from the perspective of the coloniser and empire builder; the methods employed by their protagonists may be less than savoury, of course, but the intelligent reader understands the realpolitik that means some eggs are destined for omelettes.
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Friday, December 8, 2017

Feature: Crime Novels of the Year 2017

’Tis the season for end-of-year round-ups, so here’s my half of the Irish Times’ feature on 2017’s best crime fiction. To wit:
The year got off to a cracking start with Ali Land’s Good Me, Bad Me (Penguin Michael Joseph, €14.99), a genuinely unsettling novel of complex motivations that tests the reader’s capacity for empathy as teenager Milly struggles to cope with the horrors perpetrated by her mother. Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly (Serpent’s Tail, €15.99) was yet another densely plotted, blackly hilarious outing for Adrian McKinty’s protagonist Sean Duffy, a Catholic detective working for the RUC during Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’.
  Melissa Scrivner Love’s Lola (Point Blank, €14.99) was a brilliant debut, a bleak and cynical noir set in the patriarchal gangland world of LA’s South Central, with smack-peddler Lola pulling her gang’s strings as she does whatever it takes to survive. The Late Show by Michael Connelly (Orion, €15.99) delivered a terrific new protagonist: Renee Ballard, a hard-nosed LAPD detective who can more than hold her own with Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller. Sabine Durrant’s Lie With Me (Mulholland Books, €17.99) was a superb comi-tragic psychological thriller set on an Ionian island, a novel which owes, and handsomely repays, a debt to Patricia Highsmith.
  Dennis Lehane has written private eye novels, gangster novels and standalone thrillers. Since We Fell (Little, Brown, €16.99) offered another sub-genre variation as Lehane delivered a wonderful blend of melodrama and domestic noir. Spook Street (John Murray, €19.85) was the fourth, and arguably the best, in Mick Herron’s ‘Slough House’ series of spy novels, which feature spymaster Jackson Lamb and a charming collection of has-beens and never-will-bes.
  Let the Dead Speak (HarperCollins, €13.99) was the seventh in Jane Casey’s series to feature police detective Maeve Kerrigan, a variation on the locked-room mystery as Maeve investigates the whereabouts of a missing corpse in a London suburb underpinned by religious fanaticism and patriarchal sexism. Stuart Neville published Here and Gone (Harvill Secker, €18.45) under the pseudonym Haylen Beck, delivering an adrenaline-fuelled thriller set in the badlands of Arizona. Insidious Intent (Little, Brown, €16.99) was the tenth in Val McDermid’s Tony Hill & Carol Jordan series, but there’s no sense that Val is resting on her laurels – the novel delivered one of the most shocking denouements of the year. Set in 1939, Michael Russell’s The City of Lies (Constable, €16.99) was the fourth to feature Dublin-based Special Branch detective Stefan Gillespie, with Gillespie dispatched to Berlin, a city drunk on power and triumph but already suffering from mass psychosis.
  Finally, John le Carré’s A Legacy of Spies (Viking, €14.99) hauled George Smiley’s old factotum, Peter Guillam, out of his well-earned retirement, as London’s contemporary spymasters investigate the possibility that Peter, Smiley & Co. deliberately put civilian lives at risk when mounting the operation that led to the death of Alec Leamas in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. It may not be vintage le Carré, but it’s a marvellously evocative trip down memory lane.
  For other half – i.e., Declan Hughes’ half – of the list, clickety-click here

Thursday, December 7, 2017

News: Julie Parsons and John Connolly win at the Irish Book Awards

UPDATE: Following on from the Bord Gais Book of the Year awards on November 28th, the voting is now open for the overall Irish Book of the Year. I’m not say that you should vote for John Connolly or Julie Parsons, necessarily, but I am reliably informed that, should the spirit move you to do so, your reward will be in heaven. To vote, clickety-click here

Hearty congrats to Julie Parsons, who last night won the Irish Independent Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards for THE THERAPY HOUSE; and commiserations to all the joint runners-up, i.e., Jane Casey, Haylen Beck, Cat Hogan, Karen Perry and Sinead Crowley.
  Elsewhere, John Connolly scooped the Ryan Tubridy Listeners’ Choice Award for HE, his marvellous novel about the life and times of Stan Laurel.
  For all the details of the winners in all categories, clickety-click here

Friday, December 1, 2017

‘A Letter from Evangeline’ by Lily Burke

Long-standing readers of this blog will know that our daughter, Lily, is a keen reader and writer. Recently she entered a competition run by Jacqueline Wilson, in which readers were asked to write a letter set in historical times, the best of which would be published in Jacqueline Wilson’s next book. Lily didn’t win, and she was disappointed about that, although she didn’t really expect to win; what she was really disappointed about was that she had put so much effort into the story, and now, she says, no one will ever read it. So I’m putting the letter up here, so people can read it, and if anyone feels like letting Lily know what they thought of her letter, she would be delighted. I think it’s very good, but then I’m her Dad, and Lily is now nine years old, so my opinion doesn’t count so much anymore.
  Apart from some typos, the address at the top right, and some punctuation issues her OCD Dad just couldn’t let go, the letter is all Lily’s own work. To wit:

Ward 7,
St. Bart’s Hospital,
West Smithfield,
September 2nd, 1942

Dearest Mother,
 You are in my closest thoughts and I hope that when I see you again you will be as healthy as when I saw you last. I felt awful leaving you. We were all in such a state, with Emily pregnant and Father going off to the war and Sissy, oh, it gets harder every day …
 She didn’t deserve to go, but I guess she’s better off where she is now. We loved her so, but we just couldn’t give her the home she needed. Sissy was so full of life and ideas and when she died all her ideas died with her.
 It’s my fault, I know. If I hadn’t spent all that money on my own selfish desires, we would have been able to buy the medicine Sissy needed to live.
 You simply must name Emily’s baby after Sissy. That way Sissy can be its guardian angel and be with us at the same time.
 Last week (God bless her little soul) there was a girl on the children’s ward around Sissy’s age, she was very poorly, I think she had cancer. She died on Sunday morning, and it brought a tear to my eye for it was such a familiar pain. Everything in my instinct was telling me to go and comfort that poor child’s mother, and so I did, but when I arrived on the ward I found that the mother had killed herself from a broken heart. I cried myself to sleep that night.
 The hospital is dreadful. We don’t get paid half of what we got in Manchester, and the other nurses look down on me because I’m not as posh as they are. One caught me crying in the hall after the little girl died, and said, in a very rude way, ‘Weaklings won’t survive this war.’ I didn’t say anything rude back because I know the reason that they’re so mean is because they’re trying to hide as much pain as I’m showing, and that’s only human, and I don’t see anything wrong with being human. The matron was coming, and I didn’t want her to see me crying, so I rushed off – and Mother, that’s when I met him.
 Please don’t tell the children, but I have a sweetheart. His name is Robbie and he’s ever so handsome and kind, if only you could meet him. Father would simply die if he saw him, because he looks like a convict! But he’s actually quite well behaved. He’s one of the few who survived in my ward, his body is broken but certainly not his spirit. The other night I caught him limping out of the ward and when I asked him wherever was he going at that time of night, he said he was going back to the army. I asked how on earth he would get there and he told me he would follow the trail of death.
 Often I hear him cursing someone, saying things like, ‘The day I meet you again is the day I will kill you.’ And oh, how it breaks my heart, but there is nothing I can do, for a man ought to put his health before his desire, and though no man should give up on his dream and should be ashamed to do so, he cannot let his spirit take him over. But I don’t blame him, even the calmest of men could lose their minds in conditions such as these.
 Mother, I’m embarrassed to say this, but I have been singing in a music hall. It’s not a thing a nice girl would do, but you know I’ve never been a nice girl! I suppose you’re wondering why. Robbie plans to go to America when the war is over, and he has invited me to go with him. I’m sad to say that I won’t be coming home. He will write songs and I will sing them, and it will be tough but we will find a way, as lovers often do.
 And if I do come back you can hate me, because I have gone against everything I ever believed. I betrayed you. But I hope against hope that you can find it in your heart to love me,
 Your ever loving daughter,

By Lily Burke, aged 9

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Now Reading … Mountains of the Mind by Robert MacFarlane

A man with an unerring eye for a good book, Hilary White was kind enough to pass on his copy of Robert MacFarlane’s Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination – it’s a brilliant account of how the perception of mountains has changed over the millennia. The chapter on George Mallory’s obsession with summitting Mt Everest is particularly gripping – here’s a snippet from Mallory’s third ascent, in 1924, when Howard Somervell and Edward Norton go ahead of Mallory and Irvine, without oxygen:
Somervell has to stop, but Norton presses on to 28,000 feet before he realises that he will die if he does not turn back. Precariously he descends the slabs, and meets Somervell. They descend together back towards the col, with Norton perhaps twenty yards ahead of Somervell. Suddenly Somervell coughs hard, agonizingly hard, and feels something from inside him, some object, detach itself and jam in his throat. He begins to choke to death. He cannot breathe, nor can he shout to Norton. Norton turns, but thinks that Somervell is hanging back to make a sketch of the mountain. No, he is hanging back to die. He sits down in the snow, and watches Norton walk away from him. Then – a final effort – he hammers his chest and throat with his clenched fist, and simultaneously coughs as hard has he can. The thing dislodges itself and jumps into his mouth. He spits it out on to the snow. It is a chunk of his larynx, killed by frostbite.
  For more, clickety-click here

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Event: Lee Child at the O’Reilly Theatre, Dublin

Lee Child (right) returns to Dublin to mark the publication of his latest novel, The Midnight Line (Bantam Press), which is the 22nd in the Jack Reacher series. Quoth the blurb elves:
Jack Reacher takes an aimless stroll past a pawn shop in a small Midwestern town. In the window he sees a West Point class ring from 2005. It’s tiny. It’s a woman cadet’s graduation present to herself. Why would she give it up? Reacher’s a West Pointer too, and he knows what she went through to get it.
  Reacher tracks the ring back to its owner, step by step, down a criminal trail leading west. Like Big Foot come out of the forest, he arrives in the deserted wilds of Wyoming. All he wants is to find the woman. If she’s OK, he’ll walk away. If she’s not … he’ll stop at nothing.
  He’s still shaken by the recent horrors of Make Me, and now The Midnight Line sees him set on a raw and elemental quest for simple justice. Best advice: don’t get in his way.
  The Eason Presents … event takes place on November 16th at 7pm at the O’Reilly Theatre, 6 Great Denmark St., Rotunda, Dublin, when Lee will be interviewed by Paul Whittington of the Irish Independent. For details of how to book tickets, clickety-click here

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Event: ‘A Constable Calls’ at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace

And so to Bellaghy. I’m hugely looking forward to taking part in the ‘A Constable Calls’ event at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace this Saturday, November 11th. David Torrans of No Alibis fame will be chairing a discussion between Liz Nugent, Eoin McNamee and yours truly on ‘the rise of crime writing following political changes in Northern Ireland’, so you can expect much by way of Colin Bateman, Stuart Neville, Claire McGowan, Brian McGilloway and Steve Cavanagh, among many others.
  The event takes place at The Helicon at 3pm on Saturday November 11th; to book tickets, just clickety-click here

Monday, November 6, 2017

News: Dublin City Council Writer-in-Residence

I had some rather wonderful news last week, when I was appointed – along with Elizabeth Reapy – a writer-in-residence with Dublin City Council. It’s a one-year position which will afford me a little elbow room in which to write, but it also involves working with various creative writing groups around the city, which I’m really looking forward to – I got the idea for my current work-in-progress when I was conducting a creative writing group last December (and, no, I didn’t steal someone else’s idea; I was responding to the energy in the room, which is something you tend to miss out on when you’re slogging away by yourself day after day). Anyway, the official announcement runs thusly:
Dublin City Council is pleased to announce that Declan Burke and Elizabeth Reapy have been appointed as Dublin City Writers in Residence. The residency runs for the period October 2017 to September 2018 and will be managed by Dublin City Public Libraries through the Director of Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, and will be supported in kind by The Irish Writers’ Centre.
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Friday, November 3, 2017

Now Reading ... Flappers by Judith Mackrell

Judith Mackrell’s Flappers is a terrific account of six fascinating women – Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Tamara de Lempicka – and the way they shaped, and were shaped by, the 1920s. A sample:
Samuel Hopkins Adams, in the foreword to his 1923 bestseller Flaming Youth, anatomized the flapper as ‘restless and seductive, greedy, discontented, unrestrained, a little morbid, more than a little selfish’. As she casually spent her money on a new powder compact or string of beads she also seemed shockingly a-political. She seemed oblivious of the battles that had so recently been fought on her behalf: the right to control her own wealth, to vote and to enter professions like the law. Even to wear the clothes of her choice. For decades, adherents of the British Rational Dress Society – or the Aesthetic Dress Reform movement in Europe – had been ridiculed as cranks. Yet as they correctly claimed, the freedom to wear comfortable clothes was almost as crucial a right as universal suffrage. No woman could claim effective equality with a man while her organs were being slowly crushed by whalebone corsets, and her movements impeded by bustles and petticoats that added over a stone to her body weight.
  For more, here’s Anna Carey’s review of Flappers for the Irish Times

Friday, October 6, 2017

Now Reading … Treason’s Harbour by Patrick O’Brian

  ‘You might say that Duns Scotus stands in much the same relationship to Aquinas as Kant to Leibnitz,’ said Graham, carrying on their earlier conversation.
  ‘Sure, I have often heard the remark in Ballinasloe,’ said Maturin.

Patrick O’Brian, Treason’s Harbour

‘Pick-Me-Ups’ from PG Wodehouse

Hutchinson / Arrow will publish a new series of PG Wodehouse’s short stories later this year, each one a veritable bracer for the soul. Quoth the blurb elves:
In recognition that Wodehouse is “a tonic for the soul”, Hutchinson will be publishing a series of four pocket-sized paperback “pick-me-ups” – each containing three of the best Wodehouse short stories – for “those moments when you’re in need of a small dose of joy”. The new four books will be published in November 2017 as £4.99 paperbacks in Arrow.
  The Pick-Me-Up series will be aimed at the literary gift market for both devoted Wodehouse fans and curious new readers. The titles in the set – The Amazing Hat Mystery, Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo, Goodbye to All Cats and The Smile that Wins – are among Wodehouse’s most absurd, featuring repeating characters Jeeves and Wooster, Ukridge, and Mr Mulliner, the Oldest Member at the Golf Club.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Event: ‘Lady Killers’ at Bray Literary Festival

The inaugural Bray Literary Festival, founded by Tanya Farrelly (right), takes place over the weekend of September 22nd – 24th, and it would be a quixotic literary festival that dared go ahead these days without at least one crime fiction panel. Which brings us rather neatly to ‘Lady Killers’, a panel composed of Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips and Sam Blake, who will be talking all things crime fiction at Bray Town Hall on Sunday 24th, from 2-3.30pm.
  For all the details, including how to book your tickets, clickety-click here

Monday, September 4, 2017

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Cat Hogan

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...

What crime novel would you most like to have written?
Probably RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris. It’s the first time we meet Hannibal – one of the best fictional characters ever created. Every other bad guy has to measure up to that murderous anti-hero.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Oh – that’s a good question. I should probably choose a really powerful female character such as the eponymous heroine, Jane Eyre, or even Éowyn from the Lord of the Rings trilogy – but I’m going to stick with Hannibal and his more redeeming attributes of course- the intelligence, the culture, the art and the love of food (non-human).

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Reading should never have any form of guilt attached to it but there’s one or two books I wouldn’t be caught dead reading – FIFTY SHADES springs to mind, but I’m sure EL James is not going to lose any sleep over that as she laughs her way to the bank. That said, I wouldn’t really be shouting from the rooftops the fact that there may be a couple of Enid Blyton books under my bed, specifically the Malory Towers and St Clare’s books. Who doesn’t enjoy a good midnight feast? There’s also a few Jackie, Bunty and Beano annuals knocking around the place at home. I got more excited than I should have really when my son arrived home from school with a Siamsa annual last year.

Most satisfying writing moment?
I was reading a short story I’d written for a cabaret last year. When I came to the end of the tale, the whole room had been moved to tears. I had taken a real punt, moving away from my comfort zone of conjuring up madmen and had gone in a very different direction with the story. It was a validation of sorts for me – as a writer, you don’t have to pigeonhole yourself into a certain category.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
I’m not sure if you would label THE BUTCHER BOY by Pat McCabe as crime but it’s one of the most terrifying and disturbing books I’ve ever read. As readers, we’re fascinated with crime and depravity – looking at it from the safety of the pages. If it gets too much, we can put it in the freezer and switch on the TV or pick up a lighter book. It’s an adrenaline rush. THE BUTCHER BOY stayed in my head for a long time after reading it. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. But you can’t talk about Irish crime novels and not mention Liz Nugent’s UNRAVELLING OLIVER and LYING IN WAIT.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN, of course! Before the first novel was complete, I had the cast list written for the movie. Aidan Gillen was cast to play the role of my anti-hero, Scott. It was his voice I heard in my head as I completed THEY ALL FALL DOWN. In THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN, Scott is back and he’s up to no good. Here’s hoping, eh? I’m a step closer that I was – Aidan loved the novel and gave me a cracking cover quote. If you are going to dream, dream big!

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst thing? The crippling self-doubt. The best thing? Getting an email from a reader or them telling you, in person, that they couldn’t put the book down – they stayed up all night and now have a book hangover. I’ve always been a huge bookworm and I’ve sat up all night reading. That’s the biggest compliment you can ever give a writer.

The pitch for your next book is …?
I’m just about to launch THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN and have a number of festivals and events lined up. I’m hoping things will calm down in the next few weeks – I’m itching to get back to writing. I’ve two projects on the go at the moment. One is dark and disturbing. The other? Well, that remains to be seen – the characters will dictate where that one goes.

Who are you reading right now?
I’m actually reading THE DEEP HEART’S CORE, edited by Pat Boran and Eugene O’Connell. It’s an anthology of 100 Irish poets who have chosen to come back to their own favourite poem and offer a commentary on the story behind it. Something very different for me. I had the pleasure of attending a poetry reading recently and Pat performed some of his work. He’s very gifted.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
That’s a horrible question. I’d say if God appeared in my kitchen right now, he’d have more pressing issues on his agenda with me. When I started working with my editor on the first novel, forensically going through the text, it destroyed my capacity to read for pleasure. It was a temporary thing but I didn’t like it. So, to answer that god-awful question, I’d have to say ‘read’. But then again, if you could only write, you’d still have to read it, wouldn’t you?

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Anything can happen!

Cat Hogan’s THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN is published by Poolbeg.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

News: Adrian McKinty Wins Second Ned Kelly Award

Hearty congrats to Adrian McKinty (right), late of Carrickfergus but now living in Melbourne, Australia, who yesterday won his second Ned Kelly award, for POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY, which will no doubt look nice on the mantelpiece beside the Edgar he won earlier this year. Quoth The Australian:
As crime fiction twists go, this is up there with Arthur Conan Doyle: Belfast-born, Melbourne-based Adrian McKinty last night won a book prize for a novel starring a character he wanted to kill ages ago.
  For the rest of The Australian piece, clickety-click here.
  Herewith be yours truly’s review of POLICE AT THE STATION, which was first published in the Irish Times:
Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly (Serpent’s Tail, €15.99) is the sixth in Adrian McKinty’s increasingly impressive series to feature Sean Duffy, a Catholic detective working for the RUC during Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’. The mystery begins with a bizarre murder, when drug dealer Francis Deauville is shot to death with a crossbow, but when Duffy starts to wonder why an ‘independent’ drug dealer who has been paying protection to the paramilitaries has been assassinated in such an exotic fashion, he finds himself assailed on all sides. Persecuted by Internal Affairs and fending off IRA attacks, Duffy digs deep into Northern Ireland’s recent past to uncover a tale of collusion and unsolved murder. The plot is as tortuously twisting as McKinty’s readers have come to expect but it’s the tone that proves the novel’s most enjoyable aspect, as Duffy delivers a first-person tale of cheerfully grim fatalism and Proddy-Taig banter, the story chock-a-block with cultural references, from NWA and Kylie Minogue to Miami Vice and The Myth of Sisyphus.

Friday, September 1, 2017


I was born in Sligo, Ireland, in 1969.

I have published six novels to date:

The Lost and the Blind (2014)
Crime Always Pays (2014)
Slaughter’s Hound (2012)
Absolute Zero Cool (2011)
The Big O (2007)
Eightball Boogie (2003)

I am the editor of three titles:

Trouble is Our Business (2016)
Books to Die For (with John Connolly) (2012)
Down These Green Streets (2011)

Absolute Zero Cool won the Goldsboro Award for Best Comic Crime Fiction in 2012. Books to Die For won the Anthony, Macavity and Agatha awards in 2013.

Eightball Boogie, Absolute Zero Cool and Slaughter’s Hound were all shortlisted in the crime fiction category at the Irish Book Awards.

As a journalist and critic, I write and broadcast on books and film for a variety of media outlets, including the Irish Times, RTE and the Irish Examiner.

Contact: dbrodb[@]

Event: NOIRELAND Crime Fiction Festival, October 27th to 29th

The inaugural NOIRELAND International Crime Fiction Festival will take place in Belfast from October 27th to 29th, featuring – and here, as always, we defer to the blurb elves – “the best in local talent, guest appearances by international crime-writing stars, and in-depth conversations with some of the greatest screenwriters to put crime dramas on the screen.
  “NOIRELAND is the brainchild of David Torrans who established the No Alibis Book Store twenty years ago and has been at the forefront promoting Irish crime fiction and bringing the greatest international crime writers to Belfast.”
  The three-day event will feature Irish writers Stuart Neville, Liz Nugent, Brian McGilloway, Adrian McKinty, Benjamin Black, Jo Spain, Claire McGowan, Anthony Quinn, Andrea Carter, Steve Cavanagh and Eoin McNamee, while Sophie Hannah, Arne Dahl, Robert Crais, Martin Edwards, Ruth Ware, Louise Welsh, Graeme McCrae Burnet, Abir Mukherjee, Ali Land and Steve Mosby are some of the international authors taking part.
  For all the details, including how to book tickets, clickety-click here

Publications: Irish Crime Fiction 2017/18

Herewith be a brief list of Irish crime fiction titles published / to be published in 2017, a list I’ll be updating on a regular basis. To wit:


DEAD GIRLS DANCING by Graham Masterton (February 9)
THE CORONER’S DAUGHTER by Andrew Hughes (February 23)

LET THE DEAD SPEAK by Jane Casey (March 9)
THE MISSING ONES by Patricia Gibney (March 16)
HEADBANGER / SAD BASTARD by Hugo Hamilton (March 23)

A GAME OF GHOSTS by John Connolly (April 6)
IN DEEP WATER by Sam Blake (April 11)
THE BLOOD MIRACLES by Lisa McInerney (April 20)
THE CARDINAL’S COURT by Cora Harrison (April 24)

THE THERAPY HOUSE by Julie Parsons (May 2)
THE CITY OF LIES by Michael Russell (May 4)
BAD BLOOD by Brian McGilloway (May 18)
THE LIAR by Steve Cavanagh (May 18)

SILVER’S CITY by Maurice Leitch (June 1)
PRAGUE NIGHTS by Benjamin Black (June 6)
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL by Andrea Mara (June 6)
ONE BAD TURN by Sinead Crowley (June 7)
HERE AND GONE by Haylen Beck (June 13)
ENDGAME by Casey Hill (June 14)
I KNOW MY NAME by Carolyn Jess-Cooke (June 15)
THE SWINGING DETECTIVE by Henry McDonald (June 22)

THE STOLEN GIRLS by Patricia Gibney (July 6)
AFTER SHE VANISHED by S.A. Dunphy (July 13)
RAIN FALLS ON EVERYONE by Clár Ní Chonghaile (July 15)
LITTLE BIRD by Sharon Dempsey (July 26)
THE ORPHANS by Annemarie Neary (July 27)

CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? by Karen Perry (August 26)
RAVENHILL by John Steele (August 31)

THE RELUCTANT CONTACT by Stephen Burke (Sept 7)
SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Jo Spain (September 21)
THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN by Cat Hogan (September TBA)

THE WELL OF ICE by Andrea Carter (October 5)

THE GHOSTS OF GALWAY by Ken Bruen (November 2)
BLOOD TIDE by Claire McGowan (November 9)

UNDERTOW by Anthony J. Quinn (December 14)


THE CONFESSION by Jo Spain (January 25)

SKIN DEEP by Liz Nugent (March 29)

THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS by John Connolly (April 5)
TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE by Olivia Keirnan (April 5)

THIRTEEN by Steve Cavanagh (May 3)

  NB: Publication dates are given according to Amazon UK, and are subject to change.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Publication: RAVENHILL by John Steele

Described by Colin Bateman as ‘A cracking, fast-paced thriller,’ John Steele publishes the first in a Belfast-set series, RAVENHILL (Silvertail Books). Quoth the blurb elves:
Belfast, 1993: Jackie Shaw is a young tearaway running with paramilitaries in Belfast. He treads a fine line keeping psychotic hard-man Rab Simpson in check while sleeping with gang leader Billy Tyrie’s beautiful wife on the side.
  When a bomb claims nine lives, he is given the role of getaway driver in a planned reprisal killing, a key role in a major operation. But Jackie may not be who he seems ...
  Twenty years later, Jackie returns to the city for his father’s funeral after disappearing in mysterious circumstances. He wants to mourn then leave, but when figures from his past emerge, he is left with no choice but to revisit his violent former life.
  RAVENHILL will be published on August 31st.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Publication: CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? by Karen Perry

Composed of Karen Gillece and Paul Perry, the crime-writing duo Karen Perry publish their fourth offering, the psychological thriller CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? (Penguin), this week. Quoth the blurb elves:
It’s been twenty years since Lindsey has seen her best friend Rachel
  Twenty years since she has set foot in Thornbury Hall – the now crumbling home of the Bagenal family – where they spent so much time as teenagers. Since Patrick Bagenal’s 18th birthday party, the night everything changed.
  It’s time for a reunion
  Patrick has decided on one last hurrah before closing the doors of his family home for good. All of the old crowd, back together for a weekend.
  For the secrets to come out
  It’s not long before secrets begin to float to the surface. Everything that Lindsey shared with her best friend at sixteen and everything that she didn’t.
  But some secrets should never be told. They need to be taken to the grave. While others require revenge at any cost.
  For a review of Karen Perry’s ONLY WE KNOW, clickety click here
  For a short story from Karen Perry – ‘Tell Me Something About Your Wife’ – clickety-click here

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Irish Writers Centre Mentoring

I’m delighted to announce that as of today, yours truly is a Mentor in the Irish Writers Centre mentoring programme. Quoth the blurb elves:
 My speciality is crime fiction. As an award-winning author and editor in the genre, I can provide invaluable insights into every sub-genre of crime and mystery fiction.
 Baffled by your own plot? Unable to give your characters the desired depth? Struggling to master the intricacies of dialogue? Keen to give your prose a final polish? Whether your manuscript requires an intensive edit or one last brush-up before you send it off to an agent or publisher, I can help.
 For more information, or an informal chat, contact Declan Burke at the Irish Writers Centre.

Relevant Information:
I am an award-winning author and editor.
 I regularly tutor creative writing courses at the Irish Writers’ Centre. These courses include modules on structure, plot, character, narrative voice, setting and dialogue.
 As a proof-reader I worked for the legal publishers Thomson Round Hall.
 Since 2007, I have hosted the blog ‘Crime Always Pays’, which is dedicated to Irish crime fiction.
 I write a monthly crime fiction column for the Irish Times.
 I have hosted numerous public events and interview panels, helping to organise and co-ordinate literary festivals, including the inaugural Irish crime writing festival at Glucksman Ireland House, NYU.

Publishing History as Author:
Eightball Boogie (Sitric) (2003)
The Big O (Hag’s Head Press) (2007)
Absolute Zero Cool (Liberties Press) (2011)
Slaughter’s Hound (Liberties Press) (2012)
Crime Always Pays (Severn House) (2014)
The Lost and the Blind (Severn House (2015)

Publishing History as Editor:
Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century (Liberties Press) (2011)
Books to Die For (co-edited with John Connolly) (Hodder & Stoughton) (2012)
Trouble Is Our Business (New Island Books) (2016)

Nominations and Awards
Absolute Zero Cool won the Goldsboro Award in 2012. Eightball Boogie, Slaughter’s Hound and Absolute Zero Cool were all shortlisted for the crime fiction prize at the Irish Book Awards. The Big O, Slaughter’s Hound and Crime Always Pays were all shortlisted for the Goldsboro Award for Comic Crime Fiction.
Books to Die For won the Anthony and Macavity Award for Best Non-Fiction Crime. It was further nominated for the Edgar Award and HRF Keating Award for Best Critical / Biographical Crime Fiction.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Publication: HE: A NOVEL by John Connolly

John Connolly likes to keep busy, or maybe his restless imagination gives him no choice in the matter. Either way, he follows up A GAME OF GHOSTS from earlier in the year with he: A Novel (Hodder & Stoughton), which looks like it’s worth buying on the strength of its cover alone, and sounds like a very intriguing proposition indeed. Quoth the blurb elves:
John Connolly recreates the golden age of Hollywood for an intensely compassionate study of the tension between commercial demands and artistic integrity and the human frailties behind even the greatest of artists.
  An extraordinary reimagining of the life of one of the greatest screen comedians the world has ever known: a man who knew both adoration and humiliation; who loved, and was loved in turn; who betrayed, and was betrayed; who never sought to cause pain to others, yet left a trail of affairs and broken marriages in his wake . . .
  And whose life was ultimately defined by one relationship of such tenderness and devotion that only death could sever it: his partnership with the man he knew as Babe.
  he is Stan Laurel.
  But he did not really exist. Stan Laurel was a fiction.
  With he, John Connolly recreates the golden age of Hollywood for an intensely compassionate study of the tension between commercial demands and artistic integrity, the human frailties behind even the greatest of artists, and one of the most enduring and beloved partnerships in cinema history: Laurel & Hardy.
  he: A Novel will be published on August 24th. For more, clickety-click here

Monday, August 21, 2017

One to Watch: THE CONFESSION by Jo Spain

Jo Spain has already built a considerable reputation on the basis of her series of police procedurals featuring Inspector Tom Reynolds, but next year’s THE CONFESSION (Quercus) is a standalone thriller. Quoth the blurb elves:
Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear.
  Just an hour later, the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police. He confesses to beating Harry to death, but JP claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn’t know the identity of his victim. With a man as notorious as Harry McNamara, the detectives cannot help wondering: was this really a random act of violence or is it linked to one of Harry’s many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal?
  THE CONFESSION will be published on January 25th. For more on Jo Spain, clickety-click here

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reviews: Love, Neary, Garnier, Vargas, Bonini & De Cataldo

Peddling cartel smack to the addicts of LA’s South Central, Lola (Point Blank, €14.99) is doing whatever it takes to ‘make a life for your family better than the bullshit God served you.’ But when a drug deal goes wrong, Lola – the power behind the throne of the Crenshaw Six – has 72 hours to make it right, or suffer a horrible death at the cartel’s hands. The debut novel from Melissa Scrivner Love, a TV writer for CSI: Miami and Person of Interest, Lola is on one level a gripping tale of a brutal struggle for survival in Los Angeles’ barrios, a bleak and cynical noir that pulls no punches in its depiction of the poverty underpinning the savagery of Lola’s world. It’s a novel that has much in common with Bill Beverly’s Dodgers, although Love’s characterisation of Lola gives this novel an added heft, not least because the innate chauvinism of Lola’s sub-culture means she needs to be a chameleon-like ‘shadow leader’, a woman who pulls the strings, flatters multiple egos and cajoles rather than threatens: a junkie’s daughter, Lola grew up abused and beaten, a life lesson that taught Lola ‘she didn’t need a father figure; she was the father figure.’ The result is an absorbing tale that blends compassion and a bracing realpolitik into a fascinating account of one woman’s unquenchable will to not only survive but thrive, in the process breaking the cycles of abuse that have destroyed generations of women before her.
  The Orphans (Hutchinson, €15.99) of Annemarie Neary’s second novel are Jess and Sparrow, siblings whose parents disappeared from a Goa beach when they were young children. The adult Jess, now living in London, has built a wall of certainties around herself – job, husband, child, social status – but the nomadic, fragile Sparrow, refusing to believe his mother abandoned him, descends into monomaniacal obsession. Jess and Sparrow conduct separate investigations into the mystery of their parents’ disappearance, but for the most part The Orphans is a story of how Jess struggles to cope with the belated realisation that she is ‘just a woman without a job, in a sham marriage, with a loose cannon brother who might turn out to be a murderer.’ Neary has a terrific eye for detail – ‘the same wet-weather gear is flapping its pessimist’s charter outside Mountain Warehouse’ – but Jess is a rather passive, hand-wringing protagonist concerned with maintaining the status quo, while Sparrow, potentially fascinating as a study of sociopathic tendencies rooted in violent loss, is sketched in strokes too broad to fully persuade.
  French author Pascal Garnier writes short, offbeat crime novels reminiscent of Georges Simenon in whimsical form, and Low Heights (Gallic, €12.99) is no exception. Cantankerous widower Édouard Lavenant requires a live-in nurse after suffering a mild stroke that leaves him with a crippled arm, and Thérèse seems to fit the bill: professional, mild-manner and complaisant, she tolerates his fits of pique and endless complaints. Thérèse, however, may be a little too tolerant of Lavenant’s idiosyncratic behaviour, and perhaps even guilty of enabling Lavenant’s increasingly dangerous disregard for the importance of human life … There’s a strong sense that Garnier is toying with the reader’s expectations in Low Heights, as he cheerfully lobs supernatural elements, doppelgängers and deus ex machinas into the plot (it’s no coincidence, presumably, that Lavenant was ‘born in Lyon, the home of the puppet Guignol’), although the recurring motif of griffon vultures provide a stark reminder of the Darwinian struggle to survive that underpins Lavenant’s actions. Few writers, meanwhile, can turn a sentence so abruptly as Garnier: ‘Jean-Baptiste was smiling because that’s all a human being is left with once the skin and flesh are stripped away.’ Deliciously sly and nuanced, Low Heights is as much an acerbic commentary on the crime novel’s conventions as it is a slow-burning psychological thriller.
  The award-winning French author Fred Vargas is best known for her police procedurals featuring Chief Inspector Adamsberg, but The Accordionist (Harvill Secker, €15.99), set in Paris, is the third novel to feature her ‘three evangelists’, as retired policeman and ‘unofficial private eye’ Louis Kehlweiler sets out to prove the innocence of Clément, a simple-minded man whom Louis believes to have murdered at least two women in a serial-killing spree. As with Pascal Garnier, Vargas delivers a whimsical variation on the crime novel’s conventions, as Louis justifies his improbable approach to investigating the murders by declaring that he is ‘inclined to let murderers have more rope with which to hang themselves,’ and further propounds a theory in which the killer is inspired by Gérard de Nerval’s epic poem, El Desdichado. It’s all rather delightfully bonkers, a playful and subversively unorthodox take on the private eye novel by a master of her craft.
  Already a film, and now a Netflix series, Suburra (Europa Editions, €18.45) is a sprawling tale of corruption on an epic scale, as politicians, judiciary, police, Mafia and the Vatican fight for a slice of the pie that is the Roman suburb of Suburra during the dog days of the Berlusconi administration. Co-written by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cataldo, a journalist and magistrate, respectively, the novel’s main narrative thread follows Lieutenant Marco Malatesta, former fascist ideologue and wannabe gangster, but now the scourge of Rome’s parasites, and particularly the gang leader known as Samurai. It’s a ramshackle, rollicking tale, strongly rooted in the historical conflict between Fascism and Communism, with the jocular tone employed Bonini and De Cataldo deliberately undermining the appalling extent of the corruption involved in order to make the irreverent observation that there is no point in taking the story seriously – corruption, after all, is as old as Ancient Rome itself. ~ Declan Burke

  This column first appeared in the Irish Times.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Feature: SILVER’S CITY by Maurice Leitch

James Doyle of Turnpike Books had a terrific article in the Irish Times last week, explaining why he has republished Maurice Leitch’s SILVER’S CITY, aka ‘the novel that pioneered Northern noir.’ To wit:
Once it seemed that Northern Ireland only produced poets, now it seems to have as many crime novelists as Scandinavia. Brian McGilloway has explained the emergence of these writers: “In the absence of a Truth Commission in Northern Ireland, fiction is the closest we will come to an understanding of the past.”
  Silver’s City began that process. Maurice Leitch created a recognisable Belfast where the motives of his characters are ambiguous and arbitrary. He brought an authenticity to the conflict in Northern Ireland that undermined the lazy clichés that had been applied until then. Leitch’s Belfast is seedy and exhausted, the world of a Graham Greene novel rather than anything that we find in Jack Higgins. The paramilitaries of Silver’s City meet around kitchen tables, they reflect the domesticity and “neighbourly murder” (in Seamus Heaney’s phrase) of Northern Ireland’s violence, the casualness of a war where your enemy lives a few streets away and the only planning needed to kill someone was to knock on their door.
  For the rest of the piece, clickety-click here

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Event: The Lady Killers at the Open House Festival

No Alibis’ David Torrans interviews Alex Barclay and Sam Blake at Bangor’s Open House Festival on August 16th, with the blurb elves quoting thusly:
Take two of Ireland’s leading women crime writers, add in the don of crime bookshops, and you have all the evidence you need for a bestseller of a night.
  Alex Barclay from Cork is the award-winning, international bestselling author of eight thrillers, including her latest, THE DROWNING CHILD, and Dublin based Sam Blake’s debut, LITTLE BONES, was an Irish Times number one bestseller last year. Both books were shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.
  David Torrans, the owner of No Alibis bookstore in Belfast, internationally recognised as one of the best independent bookshops this side of anywhere, will be interrogating Alex and Sam to find out what makes a deadly read, how they created their crime fighting heroines, and if the female is always deadlier than the male.
  For all the details, including how to book tickets, clickety-click here

Friday, August 4, 2017

Review: HERE AND GONE by Haylen Beck

An award-winning author of crime thrillers set in Northern Ireland, Stuart Neville publishes his eighth novel, Here and Gone (Harvill Secker), under the open pseudonym of Haylen Beck. The story begins with Audra Kinney on the run from her abusive husband, Patrick; when Audra is pulled over for a routine traffic stop near the small town of Silver Water in Arizona, she is arrested on a trumped-up charge of marijuana possession and separated from her children, Sean and Louise. Held overnight until charges can be brought, the distressed Audra asks the arresting officer, Sheriff Whiteside, where her children are:
Whiteside held her gaze.
‘What children?’ he asked.
  It’s a variation on every parent’s worst nightmare, not least because the reader subsequently learns of an internet forum on the ‘dark web’, wherein a number of men are eagerly anticipating the arrival of ‘the goods’, ‘a pair in good condition’ who will provide the ‘entertainment’ for an evening’s depravity.
  With the reader aware that the clock is ticking, the scene is set for an adrenaline-fuelled tale of gritty heroism, as Audra – helpless in Sheriff Whiteside’s custody, suspected of murdering her children by the FBI, and already convicted by the court of public opinion – struggles to overcome impossible odds in a desperate bid to save her children.
  It’s a high-concept tale to rival Neville’s debut, The Twelve (2009), in which an ex-paramilitary, haunted by the ghosts of those he was ordered to murder, sets out to avenge their deaths. While Here and Gone is equally absorbing, the new nom-de-plume and the Arizona setting aren’t the only radical departures for Neville. In a sense, he has had to reconfigure his entire mindset vis-à-vis the crime genre, in the process illuminating the essential difference between the hardboiled crime novels originating in the US and the mystery novels of those – the recent Scandi noir phenomenon included – from this side of the pond. Where Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey and most of the other amateur sleuths of the UK’s Golden Age of mystery writing were happy to collaborate when necessary with the local police force, Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op and Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe frequently found themselves at odds with the establishment and at the rough end of a brutal justice meted out by corrupt police forces shoring up a rotten system, a state of affairs that reached its apotheosis in Jim Thompson’s first-person account of the deranged deputy sheriff Lou Ford in The Killer Inside Me.
  Hailing from a former colony, Irish crime writers get to have their cake and eat it too, presenting the police as agents of oppression and terror when it suits, but also culturally attuned to tapping into the classic British perception of PC Plod as the flat-footed but utterly dependable avatar for law, order and justice.
  It was in utilising the latter perception that the Belfast-based Stuart Neville established a considerable international reputation on the basis of a series of loosely linked police procedurals set in Northern Ireland, in which the protagonist, most recently DCI Serena Flanagan and previously DI Jack Lennon, were diligent professionals who – their personal demons notwithstanding – did their best to protect and serve the civilian population. In Haylen Beck’s Arizona-set Here and Gone, however, the police are not only mistrusted as the corrupt representatives of system of law and order heavily weighted towards the rich and privileged, but are to be feared for proactively seeking out the vulnerable in order to facilitate a monstrous appetite.
  The result is a novel that combines the propulsive narrative drive of Lee Child with Michael Connelly’s deceptively understated muscular prose, a thriller that also blends into its potent mix a strong flavour of both the domestic and rural noir sub-genres, the former as a consequence of Audra Kinney’s intensely emotional quest to be reunited with her children, the latter courtesy of Neville / Beck’s beautifully detailed descriptions of the remote and parched Arizona landscape. All told, Here and Gone is, even allowing for the inevitable hyperbole, not only a genuinely chilling and thrilling read, but a fascinating snapshot of Irish crime fiction’s ability to straddle the classic strands of US and British crime fiction. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Event: Writing Crime Fiction with Gerard Brennan

Gerard Brennan (right) is not only one of the good guys, but the good guy from whom – pace Wodehouse – aspiring good guys might take a correspondence course. ‘Writing Crime Fiction with Gerard Brennan’ is neither a correspondence course nor a set of guidelines in being a good guy, or doll, but it should prove both instructive and illuminating vis-à-vis the fiendishly difficult business of writing crime fiction. To wit:
‘Writing Crime Fiction with Gerard Brennan’
Starts: Thur 28 Sept 2017
Time: 7.00pm – 9.00pm
Duration: 8 Weeks
Venue: Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
Cost: €88/£80

Maverick police detectives, hardnosed gumshoes or crime-solving cats. Anything goes. Do you have a criminal mind, but too much sense to break the law? You might be in luck. CSNI (Crime Scene Northern Ireland) is an introduction to writing crime fiction. An eight-week course that explores the wide range of subgenres within crime fiction where you can learn about the so-called rules of writing a crime novel, and break them.

Gerard Brennan recently earned his PhD in Creative Writing from Queen’s University Belfast. His publishing credits include UNDERCOVER (2014), WEE ROCKETS (2012) and THE POINT (2011); winner of the Spinetingler Award for Best Novella in 2012.
  For all the details, including how to book a place, clickety-click here

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Irk of the Week # 326: The Decoupling of Couple Of

I’m currently reading a novel called [REDACTED] by [REDACTED], which is a very fine novel indeed, despite the author having – as seems to be the fashion – a bizarre abhorrence of using the words ‘couple’ and ‘of’ in conjunction. One such example:
They’re just a couple stupid little girls.
  Now, the first time you stumble (and stumble you do) across this, you might well assume it’s a typo, and let it slide. But when it reoccurs four or five times in the course of a single novel (otherwise typo-free), you may assume it’s a stylistic tic, and start to wonder why said tic has become so prevalent.
  Because the thing is, it simply doesn’t scan, and not least because anyone saying that line is making a conscious decision to omit the word ‘of’.
  Try saying ‘They’re just a couple stupid little girls’ aloud; then try it using ‘couple of’, ‘couple a’ or even ‘coupla’.
  If you can’t hear the difference, I apologise – it’s very likely the sound my grinding teeth drowning out the nuance.
  Of course, the line could also be written thusly:
They’re just a couple stupid little girls.
  Because the reader already knows there are two girls under discussion, we don’t really need the ‘a couple’ at all; and anyway, you’ve got that lovely plural built in there at the end, just to be doubly sure.
  Next week’s Irk: the epidemic of authors forcing characters to ‘fire up’ their computers, laptops, et al, instead of simply allowing said characters to switch on, or turn on, their computers, laptops, et al, thus costing the benighted denizens of Characterland a small fortune as they rush to invest in flame-retardant technology.

Publication: LITTLE BIRD by Sharon Dempsey

Published last week, Sharon Dempsey’s debut thriller, LITTLE BIRD (Bloodhound), is a serial killer novel set in Northern Ireland. Quoth the blurb elves:
Forensic psychologist, Declan Wells, is dealing with the aftermath of a car bomb during the Troubles in Belfast, which has left him in a wheelchair. But that is only the start of his problems.
  Welsh detective Anna Cole is running away from a dead-end relationship and the guilt of her mother’s death. She hopes secondment to the Police Service of Northern Ireland will provide a distraction.
  There is a killer on the streets targeting young women and leaving behind macabre mementoes to taunt the police.
  Can Declan and Anna work together to catch the deranged killer before he strikes again?
  And is it ever possible to leave the past behind you?
  Dominique Jeannerod interviews Sharon over at the International Crime Fiction Research Group. For more, clickety-click here

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: LET THE DEAD SPEAK by Jane Casey

Jane Casey’s seventh novel to feature London-based police detective Maeve Kerrigan, Let the Dead Speak (HarperCollins) finds Maeve newly promoted to detective sergeant, although her latest case proves a baptism of fire in the new role. When Chloe Emery, an unusually naïve 18-year-old, returns home from a weekend away to discover a bloodbath in the family home, all the signs point to the frenzied murder of Chloe’s mother, Kate – all, that is, but the fact that there is no corpse.
  It’s a variation of sorts on the classic locked-room mystery, a police procedural into which Casey – previously a winner of the Irish Crime Novel of the Year – blends religious fanaticism and patriarchal sexism. As Maeve and her colleagues interview Kate Emery’s neighbours, among them Gareth Selhurst, a preacher in the Church of the Modern Apostles, she uncovers horrors that lurk behind the most respectable of middle-class suburban facades. ‘Yes, I do,’ states Maeve without hesitation when Selhurst asks if she believes in evil, as Casey unapologetically etches the classic battle-lines of crime fiction into her plot.
  That unequivocal reply, as she faces down the ranting, patriarchal Selhurst, confirms what the reader will likely know: promotion is good for a woman. Maeve Kerrigan is here noticeably more confident than the reticent character plagued by self-doubt we encountered in earlier novels, a woman who was, in public, as hardboiled and pithy as any of her colleagues (chief among them her irascible partner Josh Derwent), but who revealed her insecurities by way of asides to the reader. Her new position may make the private Maeve feel a little giddy (‘One step up the ladder and the view was giving me vertigo.’), but her private and public selves are much more in synch, perhaps because Maeve, finally, has allowed herself to believe that she has earned, and deserves, her new responsibilities.
  Not that Maeve is likely to get carried away with Pollyanna-ish ideals about good inevitably triumphing over evil. Maeve’s unhesitating acknowledgement that evil exists isn’t rooted in any theological argument, but in the bitter experience of policing London’s streets, where even in the plusher suburbs a woman such as Kate Emery isn’t safe from the savage (male) predators who hide in plain sight among her apparently law-abiding neighbours. When Derwent tells her that she wants to make everything right, that she wants to believe in happy endings, Maeve retorts that there’s no such thing, that ‘There’s just life.’
  It’s an answer that might be construed as cynical or pragmatic, particularly in the context of a genre that generally delivers the ideal of justice as a substitute for a happy ever after. It’s a theme Casey develops as Maeve Kerrigan’s investigation develops, and the focus moves from the discovery of Kate Emery’s killer to the protecting of her orphaned daughter, Chloe. The 18-year-old Chloe – technically an adult, but mentally and emotionally much younger – has become prey for the neighbourhood’s predators, because, as Maeve tells Derwent, “no one ever taught Chloe the rules […] That your body is public property, if you’re young and female. That men will take advantage of you, if they can.” The Maeve Kerrigan novels have always had a feminist sub-text; here, in tandem with Maeve’s promotion, that sub-text is brought to the fore, as Maeve uses her new powers to go to war on Chloe’s behalf.
  The result is a complex tale that delivers a superior police procedural. Maeve Kerrigan remains one of the most likeably self-deprecating detectives on contemporary crime fiction’s beat, and Let the Dead Speak, which fairly crackles with the sublimated sexual tension between Maeve and Josh, is the most polished of the Maeve Kerrigan series to date. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Publication: ENDGAME by Casey Hill

ENDGAME is the eighth novel from Casey Hill – aka Melissa Hill and her husband Kevin – to feature Reilly Steel, the Dublin-based forensic investigator. Quoth the blurb elves:
When the body of a teenage boy is found beaten to death in his own bedroom, and a girl attending a party held at his house reports an attempted sexual attack the night before, the Dublin police immediately suspect both incidents are related. But when a sweep of the crime scene throws up some truly puzzling forensic evidence, CSI Reilly Steel wonders if those initial suspicions are correct. As the investigation deepens, and her GFU team begins to delve into the online lives of both teenage victims, even more questions are raised. Can Reilly help the investigators discover the truth about what actually happened on the night of the party?
  For a review of Casey Hill’s TORN, clickety-click here